How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near West Lebanon New Hampshire
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near West Lebanon NH and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their West Lebanon residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist West Lebanon NH lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in West Lebanon NH is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in New Hampshire to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the profession are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the West Lebanon NH area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of West Lebanon NH law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several West Lebanon NH law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the West Lebanon NH legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with New Hampshire legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in New Hampshire or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the West Lebanon NH region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in West Lebanon NH. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near West Lebanon NH, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near West Lebanon NH?
If you live near West Lebanon NH or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
West Lebanon, New Hampshire
West Lebanon is an unincorporated community (pop. approx 3,200) within the city of Lebanon, New Hampshire, on the Connecticut River. The area contains a major shopping plaza strip along New Hampshire Route 12A, serving the Upper Valley communities along Interstates 89 and 91. West Lebanon also hosts the Lebanon Municipal Airport, a number of small software and tech businesses, and a regional daily newspaper, the Valley News. The village serves as a bedroom community for nearby Dartmouth College.
West Lebanon was the site of Lebanon's first settlement in 1761. Later the village became a regionally important rail hub, although at that time it was better known to rail travelers as Westboro. By the 1950s, however, the rail industry had shrunk significantly. The village of White River Junction, Vermont, across the Connecticut River, took most of the remaining services, and the rail service through West Lebanon was terminated.
Today commerce has replaced transportation as the basis of the economy, and West Lebanon serves as the commercial hub for a United States micropolitan area of over 170,000 people.Seminary Hill School is located in the area.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near West Lebanon NH
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your West Lebanon home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in West Lebanon NH.
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